Congratulations this morning go out to Team France, who delivered a brilliant upset in taking out Greece and another golden generation in the 2010 FIBA U20 European Championship men final, 73-62.
For the second consecutive year France and Greece met in the decisive match of this tournament and, despite a complete roster makeover, Les Bleus also handed the Greeks their only loss in the competition for the second year running.
The team dedicated the win and the tournament to former teammate Jonathan Bourhis, who in September was killed in a car accident.
Team France wasn’t particularly well-esteemed going into the U20s tournament, starting the competition without big man Jeoffrey Lauvergne and bringing in an entirely new bunch to transform the squad that finished second in 2009, but any lack of height was made up by the dominant backcourt of Paul Lecombe and Andrew Albicy, the latter of which deservedly took the tournament MVP award.
Highlights and official FIBA writeup follows the break.
(Paul Nilsen, FIBA Europe) – France were crowned champions of the U20 European Championship Men 2010 in Croatia thanks to a 73-62 victory against Greece and amidst scenes of high emotion after the final buzzer, the tears flowed freely as the team immediately dedicated their gold medal success to former teammate Jonathan Bourhis who died tragically in a car accident last year.
Epitomizing the very essence of teamwork, Les Bleus surprised everyone with a swashbuckling first half-performance and a 20-0 run that blew reigning champions Greece out of the water and left them with a mountain they couldn’t climb.
Last year’s gold medalists struggled to come to terms with the athleticism and relentless French defence that made life particularly difficult for the likes of Kostas Papanikolaou; Panaikolaou found his usual options severely limited and this proved to be a big factor.
Not as big a factor, however, as the leadership of the fantastic Andrew Albicy: The point guard again led his team superbly well and finished with 20 points on the way to a thoroughly deserved winners medal.
Just as important was the rejuvenated perimeter shooting of France. Having not been able to get anything to drop in Makarska, their love of lighting it up from the perimeter inside the Kresimir Cosic Hall continued and Les Bleus just kept on knocking down their shots.
Without any truly established stars, France just continued to work together to squeeze every last drop from their main strength. The incessant chanting of defence coming from the French bench on each possession throughout the tournament was a constant reminder of their solid backbone.
Behind 6-4 midway through the opening period, France ripped the game open in spectacular fashion and stormed out to a 24-6 lead. As hard as Greece tried, they couldn’t overhaul the deficit.
During the final few minutes of the game, the French wobbled briefly and nerves began to jangle when Greece cut the margin to five points at 63-58 with two minutes to go: But France is a team that relies on solid fundamentals and perhaps rather aptly, they made 17 of 17 free throws.
For a champion team like Greece, the loss was tough to take, and this latest “golden generation” suddenly had to somehow settle for silver. For many of their class players so used to success, the final result was difficult to take: This certainly wasn’t the farewell to Youth basketball they’d been anticipating.
After all, this was Greece’s only defeat in the entire tournament – but oh boy, was it a critical one.